Opus Orchestra collaborate with Scholars Baroque Aotearoa to perform Mozart’s sublime Requiem in Tauranga, Rotorua, and Whakatane this May.
Originally conceived as a commemoration for the Tauranga-based philanthropist and Mozart enthusiast Bill Taylor, an avid supporter of both Opus Orchestra and Scholars Baroque Aotearoa, we also dedicate this concert to all those who have experienced suffering and loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme will begin with Mindscape, a new piece by Hamilton-based composer, Janet Jennings. Commissioned by Opus Orchestra to complement Mozart’s Requiem, Mindscape is a vivid, dramatic work exploring dark spaces in the mind.
Opus Orchestra’s brilliant concertmaster, Lara Hall, is the soloist for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major. Nicknamed ‘The Turkish’ because it includes subtle parody of Turkish bands, this is a youthful work that abounds in lyricism and fun.
The evening will culminate in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. Left unfinished on his deathbed in 1791, the Requiem showcases Mozart’s brilliant mastery over both choral and orchestral forces. It is both moving and exhilarating, achieving a sublime balance between dark and light, despair and hope – apt themes for the tumultuous years of the pandemic.
The Requiem is famously shrouded in mystery. Mozart, receiving a commission from an anonymous source, became convinced that he was writing the Requiem for himself and, indeed, he died before it was finished. At the time, the work was completed by Mozart’s student, Franz Xaver Süssmayer, but who received harsh criticism. In this performance, Opus Orchestra and Scholars Baroque Aotearoa are proud to present the Requiem as completed by the brilliant pianist and musicologist, Robert Levin in 1991.
The Requiem calls for the use of two basset horns, an instrument similar to the clarinet. For this concert we are delighted to be using a pair of basset horns bequeathed to Opus Orchestra by Bill Taylor. Mozart was by far the most notable composer for the basset horn, and its timbre perfectly suits the Requiem. Four fantastic soloists will perform in the Requiem; soprano Madeleine Pierard, alto Kristin Darragh, tenor Andrew Grenon and bass Chalium Poppy.
Opus Orchestra is the professional orchestra for Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, originally established in 1991. It has played a vital role in the cultural life of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, regularly bringing high-quality performances to audiences in Hamilton, Tauranga, and Rotorua and providing performance opportunities for experienced local musicians and younger players, including talented graduates from the Music Department of the University of Waikato. Opus Orchestra attracts nationally and internationally recognised musicians as soloists.
Lara Hall has been the Concertmaster of Opus Orchestra since 2006. She teaches violin and viola at the University of Waikato and is a member of the New Zealand Chamber Soloists, with whom she has released a CD that was a classical best seller in New Zealand. Other releases include the complete Piano Chamber music works by John Psathas on the international Naxos Label.
Peter Walls has been Music Director of Opus Orchestra since 2004. Known as a Mozart specialist, he was invited (with Robert Levin) to take part in New York’s Lincoln Centre’s anniversary celebrations for Mozart in 1991. Among recent early-music engagements, Peter conducted Handel’s Semele for NZ Opera in 2020.
Scholars Baroque Aotearoa, a Tauranga-based chamber choir under the musical direction of Chalium Poppy, is the only auditioned early music choral ensemble in the Bay of Plenty. Their repertoire spans the history of choral music from early sixteenth-century masterpieces to thrilling twenty-first-century contemporaries.
There will be a pre-concert talk at 1.30pm. Door sales also available.